In her really interesting book, The Averaged American, Sarah Igo uses case studies (Middletown, the Gallup Poll, and the Kinsey Reports) to tell the intellectual history of statistics, polling, and sampling. The premise is fascinating: Today we’re bombarded with statistics purporting to represent the average American, but this is a new development. Before the science developed, the concept was elusive and the knowledge was impossible.
There are lots of fascinating insights in her book, but a recent blog post by Byron York brought one in particular to mind. Here’s a screenshot of his opening lines:
Text (emphasis added by Jay at MontClair Socioblog):
On his 100th day in office, Barack Obama enjoys high job approval ratings, no matter what poll you consult. But if a new survey by the New York Times is accurate, the president and some of his policies are significantly less popular with white Americans than with black Americans, and his sky-high ratings among African-Americans make some of his positions appear a bit more popular than they actually are.
The implication here is, of course, that Black Americans aren’t “real” Americans and that including them in opinion poll data is literally skewing the results.
Scientists designed the Middletown study with exactly this mentality. Trying to determine who the average American was, scientists excluded Black Americans out of hand. Of course, that was in the 1920s and ’30s. How wild to see the same mentality today.
Also see an earlier post on this subject with some really great material and this post on whether Chinese Americans are real Americans.